Hosts enjoy fruits of a very simple philosophy
Saturday 06 August 2005
Nor are the origins of the tactics as elusive as the source of the Nile. England confronted the Australians with the very tactics that have served the antipodeans so well since they took the world title in 1995. Australia did not enjoy the experience. Their bowlers were flogged around a park shrunken by shortened boundaries and their batsmen had to work harder for their runs than at any time since the first session at Lord's. This time England did not let go.
It was not always pretty to watch. Determined to deny their opponents momentum, the hosts spread the field at the slightest hint of a breakout. If the runs continued to flow, England's seamers resorted to bowling wide of the wickets to a tightly packed off-side field till the batsmen started fretting. Vaughan cannot throw the ball to a McGrath or a Warne whenever he feels the initiative slipping away. He has to make the most of the resources at his disposal, a challenge he met with aplomb.
In any case, Vaughan and his spirited troupe were not trying to please the connoisseurs or impress the critics. They are trying to win a Test match and that meant subduing a succession of gifted strokeplayers. Australia have been expert at putting opponents under pressure. Here the screws have been turned on them.
Vaughan's field placements were shrewd. He placed a man at short cover for Matthew Hayden and rejoiced as the the Queenslander obligingly turned a good idea into a stroke of genius. On his journey back to the pavilion, Hayden had time to reflect that a man is prisoner of his words and master of his silences. Astonishingly, the opener's dismissal was not the worst of the innings, a prize taken by several lengths by Shane Warne.
England also placed an extra man square of the wicket for Justin Langer, whose nuggety effort held the innings together. Damien Martyn was similarly curtailed and his dismissal was as crucial as it was culpable. Suddenly England were holding catches and hitting the stumps. Sport rewards courage and punishes timidity.
No less crucially, the hosts defended the boundaries and maintained their discipline whenever a partnership developed. Often Matthew Hoggard and his fellow seamers worked away with seven men on the off side until a wicket fell, whereupon the attack was renewed. Simon Jones was outstanding with the old ball.
Vaughan also used his spinner sensitively and was rewarded with an important contribution. Ashley Giles may be a plain bowler, but he keeps a length and uses his head. Given plenty of protection, he was able to settle into his work. Batsman seeking quick runs were forced to take risks. Giles also bowled with men around the bat and took a wicket with a well disguised faster ball. England deserve credit for retaining him.
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